Monday, May 31, 2010

Family Holidays...The Good the Bad and the Ugly

One of the many reasons we decided to move to England was the opportunity to easily travel to places that would otherwise take us a lifetime. Our first excursion was one of several that we would take to Disneyland Paris. We flew out of East Midlands Airport and, after waiting over three hours for our plane to be built, we were finally called to board. At about this time I was in the ladies room fretting over the most horrible looking rash that had suddenly covered my baby son’s body. Since he didn’t have any fever and wasn’t bothered by it as much as I, I redressed him and reluctantly boarded the plane. Two hours later after a blessedly uneventful flight, we climbed aboard a bus headed for the park. Our ride went well enough until our bus driver suddenly hit his brakes catapulting our daughter down the aisle and into the stairwell at the front of the bus. Her injuries were minor, only a scraped knee and a slight bump on her forehead, but her pride was mortally wounded. As it turned out, it was nothing that couldn’t be cured by a couple of days hanging out in Sleeping Beauty’s neighborhood. Our trip was capped off two days later when my son and I became trapped in the doors of a Metro train that was getting ready to depart threatening to send us both to an early grave. Thanks to the quick thinking of a fellow passenger who quickly pried the doors open, we were free to live another day.

Shortly after our first trip to Paris, we decided to stay a little closer to home and take a day trip to Bath. We spent the better part of the day visiting the Roman baths and the English Teddy Bear Co. before heading to the car with a couple of grumpy children in tow. While waiting in the crowded elevator lobby for the car park lift to arrive, I noticed that we would be riding with several other families and a Hyacinth Bucket look alike. When the empty lift arrived, most of the crowd slowly made their way inside until it was obvious that there wouldn’t be enough room for our little family and one other that was also pushing a baby in a stroller. Just as we fell back and the elevator door started to close, my little daughter quickly pushed her way through the crowd and on to the lift without her father, who I might add, had been assigned to watch her. The doors closed behind her and she was gone. We looked at each other in stunned silence before the father of the other family waiting with us called my petrified husband into action by hitting the stairwell. While my hero and the man I was married to ran into the abyss of the car park, I stayed behind envisioning my sweet little girl’s face on a milk carton. In what seemed like an eternity later, the light over the lift door lit up and sounded with a cheerful “ding” before opening. There stood Hyacinth, hat askew and lipstick smeared, holding the hand of my hysterical daughter. Goodness only knows what went on in that lift for those five minutes (I shudder to think). I couldn’t thank her enough for taking care of my little angel on her big adventure. In a selfless gesture of thanks I offered her my husband, who by this time had returned, but she obviously already had one of her own and declined.

Several months later, we made our first family trip to Amsterdam. Ten years earlier, I had spent a few days there with a friend of mine and had fallen in love with the city. I couldn’t wait to revisit all of the wonderful sights with my husband, who by this time was once again in my favor. Unlike my first trip to this beautiful city, we stayed at a lovely hotel in their huge “family room” which was really a three bedroom flat right on a canal. Yes siree, things were looking good for this vacation. We toured the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and finally the landmark my daughter had been waiting for, the Haagen Dazs ice cream shop. My husband and daughter went to order leaving me to take care of our infant son. As I lifted him out of the stroller, a dirty low down thief that will most certainly burn in hell for all eternity skillfully swept up my purse and escaped into the crowd. Gone was more cash than I care to think about, credit cards and identification, my son’s spare pacifiers and my daughter’s favorite Barbie. After spending the better part of our last day in Amsterdam at the police station in vain, we flew home to bluer skies and an abundance of dummies filing this vacation under “lessons learned.” Don’t worry, all was not lost, under my loving husband’s supervision, or lack thereof, my daughter was able to score a couple of questionable souvenirs that upon close inspection caused their confiscation and a short time out for Dad.

These experiences were just the beginning of many memorable travel adventures for our family. Space limitations here prevent me from telling you about the time the Pacific Ocean swallowed my daughter only to spit her out one very long and terrifying minute later; or the one when we drove straight into the middle of a very tense political rally in Jamaica followed closely by a minor car accident. Oh by the way, a word to the wise, Italy is closed Easter week. As you can tell, we have had some pretty wild and wonderful times. Our secret has always been to just hold on tightly to each other’s hands (well, most of the time) and keep on smiling.

With summer upon us, many of you will be heading out to make family memories of your own. I wish all of you brave road warriors the best for a fun and safe holiday. For those of you who are planning on many lazy summer days at home, I’m attaching a couple of my favorite summer recipes for you to enjoy.

Sparkling White Sangria

1 cup (250 ml) apple juice
1 cup (250 ml) orange juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
1 cup (250 ml) pineapple juice
1 cup (250 ml) Limoncello
1/2 small apple, thinly sliced
1/2 small orange, thinly sliced
6 thin slices lemon or lime
1 handful blackberries, raspberries or blueberries
4 large strawberries, thinly sliced
1 – 750 ml bottle Prosecco, Cava, or any favorite sparkling white wine, chilled
1 cup (250 ml) lemon lime soda

In a large jar or pitcher, combine the juices, Limoncello, and sliced fruit; cover and place in the refrigerator for one hour. Add the sparkling wine and lemon lime soda just before serving. Stir well and serve over ice with extra cut fruit as garnish.

Serves 6 – 8

Summer Fruit Cobbler

6 tablespoons (84g) butter, melted
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for berries and topping
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (185ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (425g) berries (I use a mixture of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F, 180 C.

Pour the melted butter in the bottom of a 9” square baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, milk and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the melted butter. Do not stir.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the berries and gently toss before spooning them over the top of the batter. Do not stir.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the berries.

Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 40 - 50 minutes or until it is golden brown and set in the middle.

Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.

*In addition to fresh berries, this recipe is delicious made with tinned peaches, apples or cherries.

Serves 6 - 8


  1. Hi karen, this blog is also so nice, just like the other. I love sangria, I'm definitely got try this recipe!

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  3. What a perfect summer treat! I cant wait to try your Sangria and cobbler:) I Saw your blog from the foodie blog roll and If you won't mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

  4. Great post! Loved reading about your adventure to paris, oh my God, your poor sanity!
    Oh and thanks for the recipes too.



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